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Foreign investment 'scaremongering' not helping economy

25 August, 2014

Australia should "put the 'welcome mat' out" for foreign countries looking to invest in Australian agriculture as such investment allows rural communities to thrive, an economics expert has said.

David Williams, Managing Director of investment firm Kidder Williams, said foreign investment should be seen as "healthy and vibrant", and the less red tape Australia has in place the better.

"These people are going to breathe new life into our rural communities, breathe new life into assets that have been underutilised for a long time … and create enormous employment," he said.

"We should be putting out the welcome mat, we should be putting on the outside light and we should welcome those people with open arms."

Investment coming from all corners of the globe

Williams said there was a delusion a majority of foreign investment was from China.

"The Japanese are investing a lot, so we've got Itochu in Burra Foods for [milk] powders and Mitsubishi investing in Murray Goulburn's new [milk] dryer in Tasmania.

"Some of those investments are there to satisfy not only the China market but also markets in Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Eastern Bloc, so it's very exciting, it's coming from everywhere."

Furthermore foreign companies were reinvigorating many sectors of the agriculture industry that had not been on the market for several years or more.

"We've had a number of assets bought in the last six months that have been on the market for five years or more.

"What we're now seeing is mothballed assets – food assets, a couple of abattoirs I'm aware of – where people are buying those and are going to reopen them.

"That's fantastic news."

'Scaremongering' warding off good foreign investment potential

Williams said the quality of debate about foreign investment on our shores – both in parliament and in the media­ ­– risks driving potential investors away.

"It's a popular topic to say there shouldn't be foreign ownership. It's a nonsense in my opinion, we need the money and it's not going to last forever," he said.

"Time is of the essence, and the last thing we want to do is have knee-jerk reactions sending these people back to where they came from."

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Quale | Monday, August 25, 2014, 1:17 PM
""It's a popular topic to say there shouldn't be foreign ownership." This article is pure spin. What country people are concerned about, and this article skirts around, is foreign ownership of our land. Let foreign companies buy factories by all means if it means increasing exports of secondary products and providing jobs. But lets keep the soil in Australian hands. .
Rob | Monday, August 25, 2014, 3:39 PM
"These people are going to breathe new life into our rural communities". David Williams - you can't be serious. Most of these purchased farms have their produce sent directly to the overseas parent company with no Australian value-adding. And now they're using our over-generous 457 visa process to bring in their own labour. Australia is becoming the laughing stock of the business world.